CMW Review: Ben Lee, Evan Dando12 May 2015 / by Eric Sorenson (author)
When Ben Lee hit the stage, the singer-songwriter played with style and grace, as if he were playing to a packed house despite the sparse crowd on Thursday night. While this CMW event may have been under-attended, those who were there were treated to a variety of new songs from Lee’s forthcoming album as well as a sampling of songs from his extensive catalogue.
His stage presence was relaxed and friendly. He made jokes with members of the audience, took requests, and led the crowd through a sing-along of the refrain in his song “We’re All in This Together” from his 2005 release Awake is the New Sleep. His new song “Everybody Dies” (which Lee explained he was prompted to write when his then-2-year-old daughter began asking about her own mortality) highlights the earnest lyrics and potent subject matter that characterizes so much of his music.
Lee’s humble demeanour and down to earth style were a nice fit for the Evan Dando faithful in attendance, which includes Lee himself. He wrote the song “I Wish I Was Him” as a tribute to the Lemonheads frontman back in 1994, which Dando played later that night during his set!
Lee’s new album Love is the Great Rebellion is due out June 2nd but you can preorder it now on his website.
Evan Dando wasted no time breaking out classic Lemonheads songs, spanning from their 1992 release It’s a Shame About Ray all the way up to his 2003 solo album Baby I’m Bored. Dando played a solid acoustic set before bringing out opening acts Willy Mason and Marciana Jones to accompany him. Throughout the evening Dando treated the audience to some of his more obscure songs, including "In the Grass All Wine Colored" as his special guests got settled in and tuned their guitars.
With Mason and Jones on stage, a feeling of calm and stability was palpable. For those who have been to an Evan Dando performance before, you may have noticed that he has a tendency to either end performances abruptly or play on until the closing time. On this night, Dando appeared at ease and the presence of Mason and Jones on stage served as a kind of guarantee to fans that they were in for a full show. Marciana Jones added subtle harmonies and Willy Mason’s guitar and foot drum gave the room a full band feeling for the middle part of the set.
Dando continued to play long after his guests made their way backstage. Dando himself would simply hop off the stage into the arms of his adoring fans. With his set list exhausted, he took requests from the few but devoted fans in the audience, ensuring that everyone was well satisfied.
By playing the classics, bringing out some special guests, and peppering the set with some of his lesser known songs for the serious fans, Evan Dando made this this year’s CMW performance at the Great Hall a triumph in the end.